Shimmer Structure + Brushstrokes

The creative process is much like that of alchemy—creating something out of nothing after the artist’s muse strikes with inspiration. Creation is a way for the artist to fully form souvenirs emblematic of their experiences in daily life using their imagination. These objects become unique treasures shared with the eye of the beholder. The following pages light up with color and form celebrating the vibrancy of the artisans, crafters and master artists bursting with passion in and around the Potomac community.

Irwin Gross, Master Jeweler at Goldsmiths Dealers in Dreams 

Irwin Gross, owner of Goldsmiths Dealers in Dreams, is an international and national award-winning master of his craft, jewelry design. He won the National Diamonds Today Award for a diamond stud earring set he designed in 1984. He later won the Diamonds International award for his innovative idea—creating a floating effect with a diamond stud and pear-shaped diamond on a long piece of gold with a hole in it upon which the jewel floats. This design has now become commonplace in the jewelry industry. 

Irwin has a vast knowledge of unique and unusual gemstones in addition to an expansive inventory of gemstones. He not only creates brand-new jewelry designs using sophisticated gemstone cuts, Irwin also specializes in repurposing pieces of jewelry and giving them new life. He collaborates with his clients and draws up his designs based on their combined ideas. He then forms a proof out of wax to show the client how the design will look in three dimensions. Irwin has found his process as an artist, sharing in the sentimental stories of his clients’ treasures and creating new pieces of art, has been quite a rewarding experience. The relationships he has built are worth more than gold.

One such fascinating friendship developed with Liberace, the famous piano player, or Lee, as his friends called him. Irwin designed Liberace’s original piano ring. Lee’s mother gave him her ring, a ballerina ring. The ring is called a ballerina ring because there’s a center stone in it and baguettes undulate around the center of the ring, which resembles a tutu. Upon view, Irwin suggested he change the ring into a piano realizing the baguettes could make striking keys. Lee fell in love with the idea. Irwin later designed a new piano ring for the musician this time with tapered straight baguettes that were longer on one side with shorter black onyx illustrating the sharp keys on a piano. This second design featured the star’s initials in script and filigree on the top of the piano. 

Perhaps Irwin’s most special design was his first creation, a redesign of his mother’s rare black opal ring that he accidentally cracked as a “rambunctious 8-year-old.” His uncle worked in the jewelry business, and Irwin convinced his uncle to let him learn the business at age 15. From that moment on, Irwin worked hard learning all he could about jewelry design. He worked two summers as an apprentice and created his first design with the help of the store’s expert goldsmith. Over the irregular crack, a gold olive branch design made the black opal whole again, the branch budding with diamonds as flowers. Irwin used his earnings from two consecutive summers as a deposit on the ring’s makeover. When Irwin presented the gift to his mother, she cried tears of joy. She had never scolded him for the accident, and he was proud to offer her the symbolic olive branch and make a shining memory. Ultimately, this happy accident led Irwin on a path to create works of art commissioned by Frank Sinatra, President Nixon, President Reagan and many others. Learn more at GoldsmithsDealersInDreams.com.

Wanda Hutchins-Strahan’s ‘Wandaful’ Home Designs

Wanda Hutchins-Strahan has become quite an accomplished self-taught woodworker. If someone had told her that she would become passionate about woodworking years ago, she wouldn’t have believed them.

“I’m petite. I’m not strong,” she says with a gentle laugh.

But her eye for design is strong, and her pieces of furniture are robust. She started repurposing furniture in her 20s out of necessity. She had inherited a heavy oak cabinet and it “wasn’t my style at all.” Wanda painted and distressed the cabinet and finished it with slate stone on top. Through trial and error, she refinished her first piece and was happy with the result. 

She instantly fell in love with the process.

“I love working with my hands. If you have a natural desire to learn something new and you are motivated, you can learn anything,” Wanda says.

She pored over woodworking books from the library and later watched many YouTube tutorials. 

She “upcycled” her friend’s barn door into a farmhouse table. Word of mouth traveled among friends, and they started commissioning work. In 2015, this evolved into her business, Wandaful Home Designs. 

She continues to study carpentry and builds farm tables, end tables, headboards, coffee tables, night stands, cabinets, dressers and more. She even has fun making seasonal holiday decorations from wood. Wanda has also built a great motto for life: “If you have a passion for something, focus on your goal, work hard, and the opportunities will present themselves. Then you can get to the next level.”

What’s next for Wanda? She’s starting her own YouTube channel soon to pay forward what she has learned about refinishing and building furniture from the ground up. Learn more at WandafulHomeDesigns.com.

Nimi Trehan Fine Art

Nimi Trehan’s work accomplishes what any great artist hopes for. Her paintings emote soul and story. With their splashes of bright color and dense texture on the canvas, her pieces are reminiscent of what one envisions in their dreams. Nimi has won numerous awards acknowledging her artistry. 

Nimi grew up in New Delhi, India, where she studied interior design at Women’s Polytechnic. In India, she primarily worked in residential interiors and product design. She participated in several exhibits featuring furniture, carpet and wall hangings, and batik paintings. After moving to the United States, she continued work in interior design, predominately for the corporate, healthcare and federal sectors. She incorporated art and photography as significant elements in her designs, often designing total interiors around art or used photography to project the corporate image.

Currently, she is totally focused on her interest in art and is continuously refining her skills and evolving her style. Prominent Washington D.C. artists including Michaele Harrington, Beverly Ryan, Marsha Staiger, Robert Liberace, Michael Farrell, Mary Staley and Tendai Johnson have guided her. She is a member of the Art League in Alexandria, Virginia; Glen Echo Park in Maryland; and of the Society of Layerists in Multimedia. She maintains her studio and gallery in Potomac, Maryland.

“Throughout my life, my instincts have compelled me to return to art to express my observations and emotions on canvas. I create expressionist figurative work and complex abstract forms in my paintings, valuing expression over perfection. The vibrant colors of my native India are central to my self-expression. Dynamic lines also dominate,” Nimi notes in her Artist’s Statement. 

She goes on to explain that her brushstrokes emphasize emotions with color and rhythm as primary tools, the paintings carry hidden meanings and mystical symbolism. Nimi’s paintings truly evoke a visceral reaction upon view. Depending on the work, the paintings offer up an experience that could be jarring or soothing; the viewer becomes awestruck, the viewer becomes curious, the viewer becomes inspired. No matter what feeling the viewer experiences, the viewer becomes enamored with Nimi’s art. Learn more at NimiTrehan.com.